The Common Emergency Blanket, also known as a Mylar blanket, survival blanket, space blanket, or solar blanket, has one common use: keeping a body warm during an emergency situation.
However, there isn’t anything common about this lightweight, paper-thin, reflective sheet.
The material was first developed by NASA in 1964 for the United States space program, and was used in many satellites and space projects, including the Apollo Lunar Module. Today, our flimsy emergency blankets are made with the same space-age technology, by vacuum depositing a precise amount of pure aluminum vapor onto a thin but durable film substrate.
This standard piece of gear, commonly found in the backpacks of hunters, campers, and hikers, really doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
They have a melting point above 250 degrees, which makes them safe for a variety of applications. Also, in spite of their high-tech origins, emergency blankets are one of the cheapest pieces of gear you’ll ever buy.
Even the high-quality expensive emergency blankets only cost a few bucks, so there isn’t any reason you shouldn’t have several on hand. Plus, there are more uses than the obvious insulating blanket.
Here are some uncommon ways you can use this common piece of survival gear.
- Makeshift shelter. In a pinch, an emergency blanket can be used like a tarp to make a lean-to or canopy shelter.
- Use as a groundcover under your tent or tarp shelter.
- A tablecloth or picnic blanket.
- Use as a privacy curtain in your tent.
- Tear into strips and use as highly visible trail markers.
- Use to melt snow into potable drinking water.
- Use to catch rainwater.
- Twist to make extra cordage.
- Pull through belt loops to use as a makeshift belt.
- Use as a reflective signaling device.
- Use as a backdrop to your campfire to protect from wind and reflect heat toward you.
- Place wet or damp clothing on your survival blanket and place in the sun for faster drying.
- Use the reflective material to line a homemade solar oven.
- An emergency blanket can be used as a sling or tourniquet in a survival situation.
- Secure edges with duct tape to make a sleeping bag.
- Cut a hole in the center and use as a rain poncho.
- Line your boots. The reflective material will help trap in extra heat to keep your feet warm.
- Use a tiny piece with a small fishing hook and line to catch fish. Some fish are attracted to the flashing of the material in the water and will snatch it up thinking it is something to eat.
- Shred into tinsel for your Christmas tree. It’s quite festive.
- While some survival sites claim you can use a reflective emergency blanket to direct the sun’s heat and start a fire, I’m calling B.S. on this one. If you’ve ever tried to start a campfire with a mirror, you know this is basically impossible. Make sure you keep at least two ways to make fire in your bag at all times and be sure that you practice enough to be proficient at starting a fire with them.